EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

07.02.10

Freedom Defenders Look at the Glass Half Full in the Bilski Aftermath

Posted in Free/Libre Software, IBM, Law, Patents at 9:17 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

John Paul Stevens, SCOTUS photo - portrait
John Paul Stevens retires at the age of 90 as the Bilski decision comes out

Summary: A look at the (mostly) positive analyses resulting from the ruling where Stevens was unable to convince a majority of his peers to pull the plug on software patents

THIS is probably our last post that summarises responses to the decision from SCOTUS.

Our goal is to inform readers of interpretations that relevant groups have shared regarding the Bilski case, so it’s more of an overview that encourages to read further into the references. As I started before, IANAL (I am not a lawyer), so I will make no attempt to interpret the document myself and insinuate that my verdict is an informed one. Others who are not lawyers/paralegal researchers do attempt to do just that and they drown out the signal.

“The explanations and reasoning from the SCOTUS can be interpreted in all sorts of ways because there is a lot of ambiguity and not all judges subscribe to the same portions of the ruling.”Major publications like the New York Times and Washington Post have both covered this ruling [1, 2], which threw out the patent of Bernard Bilski (that is probably the only fact we know for sure).

The explanations and reasoning from the SCOTUS can be interpreted in all sorts of ways because there is a lot of ambiguity and not all judges subscribe to the same portions of the ruling. In fact, the decision was a very close one and there was a 4-to-5 vote at end.

Pogson offers some reflections on Bilski. He is a Free software proponent and not a lawyer but a teacher and engineer.

The only way this issue can be settled promptly now is by legislation. M$ and its buddies will be lobbying fiercely to have the patent laws explicitly accept software. Unfortunately for them, all software, except perhaps in a controller where the software cannot possibly have multiple uses, is abstract. That is to say, programmes written in a high-level language do not even deal with bits let alone reality. They deal in variables and data-structures, abstractions in themselves. If the legislators allow software patents, they will have to allow patents on abstractions, something they will not do or cannot. That would throw our thoughts and all freedom under the bus. Indeed, one brief they did not reference was about freedom of speech as software. Patents cannot be allowed to restrict freedom of speech.

Michael Barclay, a lawyer, wrote for the EFF that “The Supreme Court Declines to Prohibit Business Method Patents” (his chosen headline). APRIL, a French advocacy group for Free software wrote about this too and here is the summary from its statement which it titled “Bilski case: the United States starts to clean the software patents minefield”

The US Supreme Court has issued on Monday a ruling that many people had been waiting for in the so-called “Bilski” case1, regarding a patent on a business method. This decision, even though it does not exclude every software from patentability, invalidates a majority of them, including those patents on computer implemented intellectual methods. It is now time for European lawmakers to halt software patents’ proliferation in Europe.

The FSF’s Peter Brown looks at/accentuates the positives:

Bilski gave us a wonderful opportunity to increase awareness to the harm caused by software patents. More scholars, more developers, more journalists, more politicians, and more patent attorneys than ever before have heard from our community on this issue. What’s next?

So again we see an example of the FSF being positive, not negative. It is mostly constructive in its approach, contrary to claims from those who wish to daemonise the FSF. Yesterday we summarised some opinions from the SFLC's Professor Dan Ravicher. There is also a new summary at Groklaw, focusing on Stevens (whose role Ravicher did not particularly like because of cynicism). Pamela Jones argued about Stevens:

He’s actually read and absorbed James Bessen’s book Patent Failure and he comprehends the dangers and the costs that such patents present. Thank you, Jim Bessen (and co-authors Mike Meurer, Eric Maskin and Bob Hunt), for all your careful and helpful work, educating judges and lawyers to the dangers of software patents. Significantly, Stevens is joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer and Sotomayor. Even Justice Scalia, in a separate concurring opinion written by Justice Breyer, agreed that business methods should not be granted patents. That’s five Supreme Court judges. As Tom Goldstein of SCOTUSblog points out in his analysis of the Bilski opinion, that means that business methods patents survived by a single vote. And even at that, the opinion stated that few such methods should be granted a patent.

Here is another decent analysis from a legal blog. It’s outlined as follows: [via Digital Majority]

Sifting through the clues to patentability: Four take-home points from Bilski’s mixed bag

[...]

1) State Street Bank’s “useful, concrete, and tangible result” test is dead.

[...]

2) Abstract ideas likely include “basic concepts” and methods that can be reduced to a mathematical formula.

[...]

3) Parker v. Flook’s “field of use” and “postsolution activity” limitations are alive and well.

[...]

4) Expect more Section 101 challenges, especially at the early stages of patent litigation.

Rob Tiller from Red Hat (he too is a lawyer) wrote about this decision in a rush (Red Hat worked vigourously to eliminate software patents, unlike IBM).

Dana Blankenhorn correctly points out that Florian Müller is unfairly singling out IBM, as though IBM was the sole proponent of software patents.

Given the failure of the Bilski case to change the status quo regarding software and business method patents, the search is on for scapegoats, for weak sisters in the anti-patent fight who can be made open to criticism.

It is similar to what happens after a losing political campaign. Those most committed to the cause argue that it’s weak supporters, those willing to do business under the given circumstances, who are responsible for their political failure.

So it is that Florian Mueller of Fosspatents has seized upon IBM.

We have grown increasingly suspicious of Müller. He keeps trying to find ‘enemies’ other than Microsoft and then incite the “FOSS” crowd (as in “FOSSPatents” @ Blogspot) against that imaginary boogeyman. IBM is a favoured choice for a scapegoat due to its size, regardless of its many contributions to “FOSS”, which are very much appreciated. As one commenter puts it in Blankenhorn’s blog, “Now, I understand what Free Software is (as in Richard Stallman’s stance), and I understand what Open Source is (as in Eric Raymond’s stance). And isn’t the definition of FOSS is the union of Free Software and Open Source Software – i.e., F/OSS.

“Dana – what do you mean by FOSS? Are you confusing FOSS with Open Source?”

Florian defended proprietary software in Techrights comments; he is not a proponent of the “F” in FOSS, as even his lobby with MySQL helped to show. In many new posts about “interoperability” as the theme in the headlines (the word “interoperability” is used to dodge open standards), Müller continues to sing the same tune this week. About an hour ago he mailed me to incite against Apple at Microsoft’s expense. Typical. In his blog he currently promotes action and regulation against Microsoft adversaries.

As the old saying goes, Müller “has got some ‘splaining to do”. Only a mule would not change its stance when new information arrives and given what we have shown him about Microsoft, he continues to ignore Microsoft’s negative effects on “FOSS” (especially the “F”, which means freedom).

As the Bilski hype draws to a close, some go further and ask themselves about the impact as far as biotech patents are concerned (think Monsanto).

A Supreme Court ruling June 28 on idea patents disappointed those hoping for an overhaul of intellectual property claims for software, but it may inspire new patent tests aimed at the legally troublesome biotechnology field.

According to the court, the widely followed “machine-or-transformation” test — which limits patents to machines designed for a specific purpose, or processes that physically transform an object — is outdated. This test is also at the heart of at least two other legal cases currently being contested that could shape the future of the biotech business.

Patents on life? Why not? It’s good for lawyers. Apparently life counts as an “invention” now (if genes are perturbed in scarcely or totally misunderstood ways) to yield seemingly-desirable traits. Just ignore the side effects, much like in the patent system.

Glass filled

Share this post: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Reddit
  • co.mments
  • DZone
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • Print
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • Facebook

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

What Else is New


  1. Links 10/12/2018: Linux 4.20 RC6 and Git 2.20

    Links for the day



  2. US Courts Make the United States' Patent System Sane Again

    35 U.S.C. § 101 (Section 101), the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) and other factors are making the patent system in the US a lot more sane



  3. Today's USPTO Grants a Lot of Fake Patents, Software Patents That Courts Would Invalidate

    The 35 U.S.C. § 101 effect is very much real; patents on abstract/nonphysical ideas get invalidated en masse (in courts/PTAB) and Director Andrei Iancu refuses to pay attention as if he's above the law and court rulings don't apply to him



  4. A Month After Microsoft Claimed Patent 'Truce' Its Patent Trolls Keep Attacking Microsoft's Rivals

    Microsoft's legal department relies on its vultures (to whom it passes money and patents) to sue its rivals; but other than that, Microsoft is a wonderful company!



  5. Good News: US Supreme Court Rejects Efforts to Revisit Alice, Most Software Patents to Remain Worthless

    35 U.S.C. § 101 will likely remain in tact for a long time to come; courts have come to grips with the status quo, as even the Federal Circuit approves the large majority of invalidations by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s (PTAB) panels, initiated by inter partes reviews (IPRs)



  6. Florian Müller's Article About SEPs and the EPO

    Report from the court in Munich, where the EPO is based



  7. EPO Vice-President Željko Topić in New Article About Corruption in Croatia

    The Croatian newspaper 7Dnevno has an outline of what Željko Topić has done in Croatia and in the EPO in Munich; it argues that this seriously erodes Croatia's national brand/identity



  8. The Quality of European Patents Continues to Deteriorate Under António Campinos and Software Patents Are Advocated Every Day

    The EPC in the European Patent Office and 35 U.S.C. § 101 in the USPTO annul most if not all software patents; under António Campinos, however, software patents are being granted in Europe and the USPTO exploits similar tricks



  9. Team UPC is Still Spreading False Rumours in an Effort to Trick Politicians and Pressure Judges

    Abuses at the European Patent Office, political turmoil and an obvious legislative coup by a self-serving occupation that produces nothing have already doomed the Unitary Patent or Unified Patent Court (UPC); so now we deal with complete fabrications from Team UPC as they're struggling to make something out of nothing, anonymously smearing opposition to the UPC and anonymously making stuff up



  10. Patents on Life and Patents That Kill the Poor Would Only Delegitimise the European Patent Office

    After Mayo, Myriad and other SCOTUS cases (the basis of 35 U.S.C. § 101) the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is reluctant to grant patents on life; the European Patent Office (EPO), however, goes in the opposite direction, even in defiance of the European Patent Convention



  11. EPO 'Untapped Potential'

    "Campinos is diligently looking for ways to further increase the Office’s output without increasing the number of examiners," says the EPO-FLIER team



  12. Links 9/12/2018: New Linux Stable Releases (Notably Linux 4.19.8), RC Coming, and Unifont 11.0.03

    Links for the day



  13. Links 8/12/2018: Mesa 18.3.0, Mageia 7 Beta, WordPress 5.0

    Links for the day



  14. The European Patent Organisation is Like a Private Club and Roland Grossenbacher is Back in It

    In the absence of Benoît Battistelli quality control at the EPO is still not effective; patents are being granted like the sole goal is to increase so-called 'production' (or profit), appeals are being subjected to threats from Office management, and external courts (courts that assess patents outside the jurisdiction of the Office/Organisation) are being targeted with a long-sought replacement like the Unified Patent Court, or UPC (Unitary Patent)



  15. Links 7/12/2018: GNU Guix, GuixSD 0.16.0, GCC 7.4, PHP 7.3.0 Released

    Links for the day



  16. The Federal Circuit's Decision on Ancora Technologies v HTC America is the Rare Exception, Not the Norm

    Even though the PTAB does not automatically reject every patent when 35 U.S.C. § 101 gets invoked we're supposed to think that somehow things are changing in favour of patent maximalists; but all they do is obsess over something old (as old as a month ago) and hardly controversial



  17. The European Patent Office Remains a Lawless Place Where Judges Are Afraid of the Banker in Chief

    With the former banker Campinos replacing the politician Battistelli and seeking to have far more powers it would be insane for the German Constitutional Court to ever allow anything remotely like the UPC; sites that are sponsored by Team UPC, however, try to influence outcomes, pushing patent maximalism and diminishing the role of patent judges



  18. Many of the Same People Are Still in Charge of the European Patent Office Even Though They Broke the Law

    "EPO’s art collection honoured with award," the EPO writes, choosing to distract from what actually goes on at the Office and has never been properly dealt with



  19. Links 6/12/2018: FreeNAS 11.2, Mesa 18.3 Later Today, Fedora Elections

    Links for the day



  20. EPO, in Its Patent Trolls-Infested Forum, Admits It is Granting Bogus Software Patents Under the Guise of 'Blockchain'

    Yesterday's embarrassing event of the EPO was a festival of the litigation giants and trolls, who shrewdly disguise patents on algorithms using all sorts of fashionable words that often don't mean anything (or deviate greatly from their original meanings)



  21. The Patent Litigation Bubble is Imploding in the US While the UPC Dies in Europe

    The meta-industry which profits from feuds, disputes, threats and blackmail isn't doing too well; even in Europe, where it worked hard for a number of years to institute a horrible litigation system which favours global plaintiffs (patent trolls, opportunists and monopolists), these things are going up in flames



  22. Links 5/12/2018: Epic Games Store, CrossOver 18.1.0, Important Kubernetes Patch

    Links for the day



  23. Links 4/12/2018: LibrePCB 0.1.0, SQLite 3.26.0, PhysX Code

    Links for the day



  24. EPO Management Keeps Embarrassing Itself, UPC More Dead Than Before, and Nokia Turns Aggressive

    The EPO’s race to the bottom of patent quality continues, it’s now complemented by direct association with patent trolls and law stands in their way (for they repeatedly violate the law)



  25. The Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO) and IBM Are Part of the Software Patents Problem in the United States

    IBM's special role in lobbying for software patents (and against PTAB) needs to be highlighted; even Ethereum’s co-founder isn't happy about IBM's meddling in the blockchain space (with help from Hyperledger/Linux Foundation)



  26. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) Not Falling for Attempts to Prevent It From Instituting Challenges

    In the face of patent maximalists' endless efforts to derail patent quality the tribunal keeps calm and carries on smashing bad patents



  27. Links 2/12/2018: Linux 4.20 RC5, Snapcraft 3.0, VirtualBox 6.0 Beta 3

    Links for the day



  28. The Patent Microcosm Hopes That the Federal Circuit Will Get 'Tired' of Rejecting Software Patents

    Trolls-friendly sites aren't tolerating this court's habit of saying "no" to software patents; the Chief Judge meanwhile acknowledges that they're being overrun by a growing number of cases/appeals



  29. 35 U.S.C. § 101 Continues to Crush Software Patents and Even Microsoft Joins 'the Fun'

    The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) and even courts below it continue to throw out software patents or send them back to PTAB and lower courts; there is virtually nothing for patent maximalists to celebrate any longer



  30. The Anti-Section 101 (Pro-Software Patents) Lobby Looks at New Angles for Watering Down Guidelines and Caselaw

    By focusing on jury trials and patent trolls the proponents of bunk, likely-invalid abstract patents hope to overrule or override technical courts such as the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB)


CoPilotCo

RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

CoPilotCo

Recent Posts